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El Reno continues to recover after May 31 tornado

Six months after a tornado hit El Reno, Canadian Valley Technology Center's recovery is indicative of what's going on throughout the city, El Reno City Manager Tony Rivera said.
by Adam Kemp Modified: November 27, 2013 at 8:42 pm •  Published: November 28, 2013

— Superintendent Greg Winters stood in the torrential rain May 31, peering through the darkness at his tornado-damaged school.

In interviews with national news network crews who'd made the trek over from Moore, which just days before also had been struck by a tornado, Winters offered assurances that the Canadian Valley Technology Center would reopen quickly.

Then the sun came up. And with it, Winters' confidence went down.

The building was almost a complete loss.

“They asked me what we are going to do and how we are going to do it,” he said of reporters who met him that next morning. “At that point, I really had no clue.”

The storm had caused little property damage as it moved east across open farmland toward El Reno, but then had increased in intensity and brought hail and heavy rain. As the tornado crossed over Interstate 40, high winds tossed cars and tractor-trailers like a toddler playing with toys.

The National Weather Service recorded wind speeds of 296 mph, the second-highest measurement ever. 22 people died in the storm, nine from being in the path of the tornado and 13 from resulting flooding.

The storm hit the technology center head on. A wind turbine blade stored on the school grounds was hurled into the building. No one was injured.

Confronted with having to demolish and rebuild, Winters met with his staff to discuss whether they could reopen by the first day of school in August.

Shutting down was not an option. Too many people rely on the center. Those who earn certification in one of the CareerTech's programs can earn starting wages between $16 and $18 per hour, the school boasts.

“Our students depend on us to be here,” Winters said. “There was no way we could let them down.”

Within a week, the staff leased the old John Holt Chevrolet dealership in Yukon to serve as a new main campus. The school's child development center moved to the South Yukon Church of Christ. Other programs found homes across Oklahoma City.

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by Adam Kemp
Enterprise Reporter
Adam Kemp is an enterprise reporter and videographer for the Oklahoman and Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State...
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